College Makes Diabetes Research Seem Relevant

Nov 15th, 2003 | By | Category: 15-2: Reclaiming Native Health, Tribal College News
By Chip Clark

Diné College’s summer research enhancement program, now in its fourth year, sends students into their home communities for six weeks of diabetes-related data collection. The students begin the summer with three weeks of intensive study at the tribal college’s campus in Tsaile, AZ. Classes, which occur morning, noon, and night, focus on all aspects of diabetes prevention: diet, physical activity, available treatments, and interventions currently being used in Native communities, according to program director Mark Bauer. The students also learn how to collect and analyze data in a very “hands-on” approach.

The students work in small groups to create a composite community scenario. Using existing information and programs, each team designs a diabetes prevention intervention for their own hypothetical community. They cite literature references to defend their proposal and specify how they would measure success. Each proposed intervention combines culture, philosophy, and medical knowledge, tailored specifically to the characteristics of the model community.

Following the Tsaile classes, students travel to tribal communities to assist with diabetes programs and gather data for six weeks. They return to campus at the end of the summer. Together, the students and faculty then analyze the data and prepare reports and recommendations.

Eighteen students participated this year, representing eight tribes and five tribal colleges. In addition to integrating medical science, social science, and Native culture, this program makes research come alive. Students learn that the data they collect and analyze has critical importance to their communities and can be put to very practical use. The research skills they acquire can be used in other classes, graduate programs, and jobs.

Paul Lee Lansing, Jr., a Diné student who participated in this summer’s program, said, “I became much more computer literate — now I’m doing statistical analysis and using databases.” Another benefit of this program was more personal for student Stevie Rose Tohdacheeny Lee when she returned home to Shiprock, NM, for her six-week placement: “My grandmother is diabetic, and there’s been an improvement since I’ve been here with my family teaching them what I’ve learned.” She laughed, adding, “I’ve been giving my grandmother personal advice — usually it’s the other way around.” Lansing said he practiced what he learned the first three weeks about eating healthy, working out, and testing glucose levels. He has lost 34 pounds.

For more information, contact Chip Clark by email: chipster@fone.net.

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